I read the following in a recent blog posted entitled “What Should Never Be Handled by Email”: Once conflict is evident on email, pick up the phone to resolve it. Don’t just hit reply and continue the volley.
It strikes me that for many people, hitting reply is easier than picking up the phone. The thinking is something like this: “If I call, the person may answer and I will have to talk to them. What will I say? I don’t know. So, I will respond to the email and I won’t have to deal with it anymore.” Most of the time this causes more problems then it solves. Part of the challenge is that e-mail has no tone of voice, yet we often assume tone in the message. Once we begin to assume, we speculate about the other person’s character, motives or competence. This is danger zone. You’ve heard what happens when you assume, and it is true! Myth replaces fact. Instead of talking to each other, we talk about each other. When the conversation shifts from the situation to the people, you’re headed for trouble. Next time you are tempted to automatically reply, pick up the phone or better yet, meet in person. Say something like: “I want to talk to you because I value you as a colleague (or client).” Go on to describe the facts as you know them. Once you being the discussion, other helpful phrases are: “I noticed that…” (Ask for clarification.”) “Can you help me understand why?” (Ask for help in understanding their behavior.) “I’d prefer if you would…” (Ask for what you want in a positive way.) “I’m willing to…” (Let them know what you are willing to do in terms of a consequence, negotiation or concession.)
Conflicts at work will occur. Next time it happens, use these tools and then post a response about the outcome here on the blog.